Friday, March 09, 2007


Nordic media fall for American marketing ruse

I hadn't heard the CD "Lullabies from the Axis of Evil" even though it's been around since 2004. After Bush's State of the Union speech of 2002 in which he identified North Korea, Iraq and Iran as the "Axis of Evil," Norwegian producer Erik Hillestad worried about the "fatal results" such a doctrine could create—

The stigma that has been attached to the countries pointed out as members of "The Axis of Evil" is just one side of it. The building of enemy-lines and walls, in minds and on the ground between peoples, is another. The fact that it misleads us and covers the real problems in the world is a third.

Hillestad thus embarked on an expedition to record women singing native lullabies not only from the "Axis of Evil" but also from Palestine, Cuba, Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria. The native singers were paired with one American and several European singers, who sang the lullabies in English.

The resulting album received a warm notice from reviewers in the Washington Post and at NPR in October 2004. (Three complete lullabies can be heard at NPR, and MP3 samples of many of the others are here.) According to its U.S. distributor, the album has sold about 10,000 copies since its release.

That was until the news broke that the Bush administration had "blacklisted" the album. A spokesman for New York-based Valley Entertainment told someone in the Norwegian media that the company had been informed that the Bush administration had placed it on a list to receive "special treatment" or, in the version given by Sweden's The Local, "a list of companies that the US federal government 'would not cooperate with.'" This was picked up by Norway's leading newspaper Aftenposten, whence

Major media organizations including Svenska Dagbladet, Sveriges Radio, Metro and TV4 reported that the record 'Lullabies from the Axis of Evil' had been banned.
The story then spread to Australia Indymedia and back to the U.S.

It eventually emerged that the whole brouhaha was the result of an advertising ruse hatched by Valley Entertainment to take advantage of rampant antiamericanism in Europe. Quite disgusting really.

As Scandinavia prepared for war with the U.S., someone eventually thought to contact the U.S. ambassador to Norway, who informed the media that "a music blacklist would be impossible" under the Constitution.

Thus duped twice, the Scandinavian media are now soul-searching and making their apologies.

Update 12:28 pm — It appears that the Norwegians are quite vulnerable. Someone tried to sell the Norwegian royal palace on EBay this week.


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